West Texas Never Ends

We’re not even out of Texas yet and we’ve already facing trouble. We left yesterday afternoon around 4pm and instantly we knew that the hills were going to be a problem. They don’t call it the Hill Country for nothing, right?

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

We’ve known for about three weeks that we’d be moving out to California. The only question was: when? It wasn’t confirmed that our trip would start on Monday until six days ago. That didn’t really give us much time to prepare, but luckily, we don’t need that much time. Knowing that our move was forthcoming, we sent our Winnebago to Jonathan, our mechanic, for all necessary repairs. I put my two weeks in with work. And we scheduled our Christmas travel out of San Jose, CA, not Austin.

Because our mechanic needed longer than the week we were away in Michigan to work on the Lesharo, we booked a room at the Econo Lodge north of town. Which is where we stayed for the remainder of our stay in Austin. How romantic!

To be honest, though, the room was just what we needed. We had plenty of room to nervously pace back and forth, contemplating our impending journey. We had a real shower. A huge bed (which we only ever used 1/3 of, because, let’s face it…we’re not used to that kind of luxury). And there was free breakfast!

Instead of exploring the restaurant and brew house gems of Austin we had yet to discover, we kept it old school and had ourselves a hotel party:

We spent our last week packing up our life in Austin, enjoying the company of good friends and imbibing strong tasty drinks. And we even had out-of-town company! My good friend and old college roommate, Sus flew in from Tucson, AZ to party like it was 2007.

We ate Po-Boys at a food truck with Molly, tried on some $500 cowboy boots and perused a wacky "antique" shop where you can buy an old index card with the letter 'a' on it for $10. How very Austin.

Later, Josh and Pete joined us for an evening of wild behavior and utter debauchery, which served as both a welcome party and bon voyage celebration for Sus and Pete & I, respectively.

The fishbowl. Tasted like suntan lotion and headaches.

Definitely a good weekend to go out on. But now it was time to get serious…

We decided to keep the Kia in Austin, leaving it with our mechanic, because it just didn’t make sense to take two semi-unreliable vehicles on a 1700-mile trek through desert and hills at one time.

We were driving back to our hotel in the Kia for our final night, and whatdayaknow? That squeaky belt we've been ignoring for months finally snapped. Luckily, it wasn’t the timing belt; instead, we were running without an alternator and had no power. Winnebago deja-vu! Because we knew the drill, we immediately turned off the radio and dash lights. She made it home, but would she start up in the morning to drive one final trip to our mechanic’s?

Thank baby Jesus, the Kia made it, driving on a battery full only of hope and butterflies. We weren’t ready for a serious snafu yet. From there, we took the Winnie to our hotel to pack up our entire lives.

Before we officially left, we stopped by the old RV park to say some goodbyes. We will surely miss this place. Everyone was so tolerant and understanding of us.

For lunch, we ordered a pizza from the first place we ever ate out at in Austin: Southside Flying Pizza.

We took our pizza to go, enjoying it en route. It was approaching rush hour, so there was no more time to be dilly dallying about.

We made our first stop in frigid Fredericksburg, TX, the bed and breakfast mecca of Texas. And it really is a charming town. After two hours of strenuous ups-and-downs, the Winnebago was in need of a rest, so we found a safe parking spot for her and headed inside to the Fredericksburg Brewery to warm up with a couple beers and a soft pretzel.

Gassed up and running better than ever, the Winnie continued full speed ahead (60mph), moving west towards I-10, where we will be cruising for a majority of our trek.

Dark and desolate, our drive towards El Paso was notable mostly for the speed at which 18-wheelers would pass us and the small patch of snow we hit near Junction, TX (that was only the second time I’ve seen snow in all of 2011!).Our plan was to land in Ft. Stockton for the evening, where we could crash at the Walmart. 

But then we started to shimmy. No, we weren’t dancing. The Winnebago experienced a rather violent bout of shakes anytime we were traveling uphill. Which is 50% of the time. We could no longer reach 60mph. We could barely make it to 50. Was it our transmission? I hesitate to admit it, but we were f-ing scared. 

So we pulled off in God-knows-where, Texas, got some gas and parked outside a hotel-looking complex. We crawled back into bed, contemplating our future, and then just sort of passed out for the evening. We never even shut the bubble wrap curtains. We felt defeated.

It was remarkably cold outside last night - around 23 degrees – but we were able to keep rather warm by  snuggling up with a hilarious amount of layers. Overall, we slept fairly well given the conditions.

We woke up around 8am, feeling nervous to continue. What if this shimmy is super serious? We start her up and head back onto I-10, and guess what, no shimmy!

Well that only lasted about 40 minutes. The shimmy came back worse than ever and we knew we needed to stop. At the next rest area, we pulled over and called Jonathan, our genius mechanic. And he truly is an amazing resource.

Pete described the situation over the phone and Jonathan was able to pinpoint the problem (we hope). Our axle knuckles went bad and they need to be replaced (I'm not exactly sure what any of that means). Until we get new ones, we’ll be packing them with grease every day to fill the gap. No big deal, really; it's just super blustery outside. 

Freezing fingers.
And so far so good. We finally made it past Ft. Stockton, so now we just need to make up time. We'll probably need to make some more grease stops, but our hope is to get to Tucson tonight, where we'll be staying with my friend Susanna (the same friend from this past weekend in Austin).

We'll be stopping frequently- to get gas and keep our axle's greased up. I'm just hoping we can get the hell out of Texas within the next few hours. I've had enough!